Fresh road, air and bus strikes to bring disruption to Christmas getaway

Some 20 million journeys are expected to be made in the coming days in the build-up to Christmas. Credit: AP

Fresh strikes by National Highways workers, London bus drivers and airport staff alongside rail walkouts are set to bring major disruption to those heading home for the holidays.

Some 20 million journeys are expected to be made in the coming days in the build-up to Christmas but travellers are being warned of delays and cancellations as industrial action hits road, rail and air.

Britons have been urged to avoid rail travel on Christmas Eve as thousands of Network Rail workers walk out as part of an ongoing dispute over jobs, pay and conditions.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) employed by the transport body will walkout from 6pm on Christmas Eve (Saturday) until 6am on December 27 (Tuesday).

It comes amid a so-called 'winter of discontent,' which will see public service workers including nurses, paramedics and Royal Mail staff go on strike, with almost one walkout every day in the run-up to Christmas.

Drivers warned over long queues during ‘frantic’ Christmas getaway. Credit: PA

The rail strikes are likely to put more pressure on the roads. The AA said Friday will be the busiest day on the roads this week, with an estimated 16.9 million journeys being made across the UK.

A further 16.6 million journeys are expected to be made on Christmas Eve with numbers back to pre-pandemic levels.

But strikes by National Highways workers from Thursday until Christmas Day in the latest phase of industrial action by the biggest civil service union are likely to cause further misery for drivers.

Industrial action by Border Force workers at major airports, including Heathrow, every day from Friday until the end of the year except December 27 is likely to cause delays as millions jet off for the festive period.

Heathrow expects more than three million passengers will travel through the airport in the last two weeks of December.

Strikes by Border Force will cause delays at airports. Credit: PA

A Heathrow spokesperson said: "Our priority is to ensure passengers get through the border safely and as quickly as possible.

"We are working closely with airlines and Border Force on mitigation plans for potential strike action by Border Force officers and these plans will now be implemented for the notified days.

"The Home Office advises that immigration and customs checks may take longer during peak times on strike days, and Heathrow will support Border Force to minimise these impacts with the aim of processing passengers through the border as efficiently as possible."

The strike by National Highways involves members of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) working as on-road traffic officers and regional operating centre operatives, in London and south-east England.

The four-day walkout by workers who plan, design, build, operate and maintain the roads follows action by colleagues in Yorkshire & Humber, north-west and north-east England.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Our members are telling us they have to cut back their spending at Christmas time because they are running out of money. They have been offered a below-inflation pay award, at a time when inflation is higher than 10%.”

In addition, all PCS members in National Highways, working for the traffic officer service, will take action on January 3 and 4.

London bus workers at Abellio will also walkout on Christmas Eve in the first of a series of strikes.

Bus drivers have already taken 10 days of strike action in November and December.

The bus drivers are based at garages in Battersea, Beddington, Hayes, Southall, Twickenham and Walworth.

The timeline for the strikes will cause havoc over Christmas

The dispute initially involved 950 drivers, but Unite said its membership has since doubled.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Abellio is content to hoard mountains of cash but has imposed a completely unacceptable pay offer on its drivers.

“It is disgraceful behaviour and our members are rightly furious. Unite always fights to defend and improve members’ jobs, pay and conditions and Abellio’s south and west London workforce have their union’s unflinching support.”

Members of Unite will stage 11 strikes from Christmas Eve until January 26.

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